Good communication is important for everything in life. Period. So of course it’s important in business.
It’s no secret that technology has changed communication. Face-to-face meetings, and even phone calls, have given way to an avalanche of email. And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it. However, as overwhelming as it is, it’s important to respond to emails as soon as possible.
Now, “as soon as possible” is a vague term. And you might be thinking, “How the heck am I supposed to quickly respond to every email? Do you know how many emails I get?”
We’re not suggesting everything gets answered at the same time. That’s impossible! But you can respond effectively to inquiries from clients and coworkers without losing your mind. When you do, you are viewed as reliable and trusted. You’re letting them know that they are important and you respect them.
Well, the same technology that is inundating you can also help you. Here are three ways you can use technology to help you respond more effectively and quickly, keep your co-workers and clients happier, and you more productive and a little saner.
You can set your email to autorespond. Use this to give people information about how quickly you will be likely to respond. If you are out of the office at a conference and won’t be able to check email except on breaks, let people know you “will have access to email only at certain times of the day.”
Or reinforce to your clients any company policy or contractually stipulated time frames. Something like “ Your message is important and I’ll get back to you within the next four hours.” Everyone wants to be answered immediately but people also understand that’s not necessarily realistic. An autoresponse isn’t an answer but it is an acknowledgement of the sender’s importance and a tacit promise of a future response. It will help free you to respond in full when you have time.
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Keep Your Email Organized
Use the features in email programs that allow you to create folders and auto file emails by subject, sender, etc. Internal memos that can be read later, like an announcement about the new expense policy or a newsletter, should be filed away, clearing your inbox to make it easier to see the ones that are more urgent.
Filing your client emails in separate folders will also help. You’ll be better able to focus and prioritize the most time sensitive of these. One day, that might be Client A who is clarifying something about an order. Another day, it will be Client B, who is sending over an important document. Another time it could be an important co-worker who’s top priority.
The key is to remember that keeping things organized will help you prioritize, which will benefit you and everyone you communicate with.
Use Your Smartphone
Use your phone to check your emails. You can link multiple accounts to track both personal and professional. You have to balance constantly checking your phone with being on top of things but if you’ve used tips one and two, that will help keep it under control. Checking email on your phone will allow you to see any truly urgent messages that come in and to respond quickly.
Consider using text messages to communicate quick/urgent messages. You have to be careful here, too many texts can get overwhelming fast. Don’t promise everyone that you will communicate this way, but depending on the importance of the person/client, you may find this helpful.
One Final Tip
Schedule specific times to check email during the day, rather than constantly. Even saying you’ll look once an hour is better than every 5 minutes or so. And definitely schedule times to unplug from it and other electronic interruptions. Use the “silence” function on your devices.
“Time is Money” as the old saying goes. It’s certainly true in our business but really it’s true for everyone. Responding to emails promptly can help you stand out as an employee and a co-worker but you need to keep your sanity too. We hope that following our tips helps you be efficient and effective and most of all, more successful!